This term I have been working with my students to revise and review how we use some of the communications tools we have previously engaged with while waiting for the return of all their e safety agreements to begin work with a new, and very cool tool Honeycomb.
I first saw and played with this environment during the pilot stages following preview release at BETT in January 08, and was excited by the potential it seemed to afford for online collaborative and home school learning activity. This week most esafety agreements returned I was finally able to get most of my class logged in for the first time.
In the build up to this session we have spent time working on the web, practicing the skills we need to find, collect and store materials for use while working in Honeycomb. This has been done by working in local applications to consolidate skills that would be useful when agreements were returned.
To begin we spent some time exploring and working together on the Simpson's Movie website. Here the students designed and saved "avatars" that they could use as online representations of themselves. We also resized and cropped these to make smaller "icons" that we could use alongside our work on the class blog or perhaps to represent our work later in wiki pages developed within the Honeycomb environment. This has been part of an ongoing process of introducing the importance of keeping our online identity safe. We have considered and discussed how, if we can use images like this to represent ourselves can we be absolutely sure of who we are talking to online. Introducing the concept of how "stranger danger" in the online world might be dealt with as we do in the "real world," through seeking advice and help from an adult we trust, has been a key teaching and learning point for these activities. It was interesting to see how many students tried to create avatars, that were charicatures of themselves but a really great device to further consolidate the main e saftey teaching point of this process was when some student avatars outrageously moved away from the physical person they really were.
In addition to this, we also began modelling the process of collecting visual material to support topics and themes we were working on in class. This included beginning to make with the students local network image banks or share folders from photographs the students had captured on visits or downloaded from the web. We initially used these in local applications through the file insert process. This was intended to prepare the children for the collect and store process needed in learning how to upload images to publish to their Honeycomb pages. To practice and familiarise them with the browse to find, and browse to upload process, we used local applications with which they were familiar such as 2 create and 2create a story, developing multimedia texts around for example our visit to the SS Great Britain. In order to develop these the students were required to download images from cameras and the web first and then to use the browse and insert process to include their images in their documents.
What I am already loving about Honeycomb is that despite its ease of use, it does not wash down the process of getting material onto the web. In order to get an image into a page it must first of all be imported or uploaded to the webspace. As with most current online spaces images cannot simply be copied and pasted, as with local tools, and this is something I feel is really important for students to understand. To get an image from a web page to Honeycomb it must first be downloaded and then uploaded. This provides a very physical opportunity to introduce students to a key esafety aspect, that of intellectual property rights. It is all too easy when using local tools to simply copy and then paste images from the web. I hope the process of using Honeycomb will provide an opportunity to discuss and help students understand the importance of saying thank you, acknowledging the person/people or place that has provided any materials we use. This is still to come, in the course of our work but is key reason I hope the environment's developers, softease, do not seek a route that would make image inclusion possible simply by copy and paste. The principle of "collect, store, prepare and share," on which the above is based, is also key to the elearning projects to be developed using Asus Ees as generic tools and web books over the coming year.
This weeks session was intended to be simply introducing how to log in, log out and to set up our first page. Our preparatory work carried out using local applications and previous work on blogging has proven incredibly useful in enabling the students to work with the tool. Here is one example created by a student who currently has no internet access at home. This was her first attempt at using an online authoring environment beyond the class blog where importing images had been largely supported.
During this first paired 45 minute session J managed to log in, create a new page, customise the background, upload and insert her avatar, give her home page a title, spending some time playing with font style, size and format as well as browsing the available image bank to include a few images a short piece of body text asking her friends what they think about her avatar? The students have begun to make suggestions about how they would like to use the tool beyond school to support home learning tasks, something I hoped would begin to emerge later as they worked with the environment but that is extremely encouraging in terms of supporting development of future home/school e learning projects.
I began today visiting pages and leaving comments on student pages only to discover that I been pipped to the post, discovering on my page a nugget that had been left already. Thanks J:o) I'm quite fond of my avatar too!
There are one or two things that I personally still need to sort out and explore. Think.com allowed access to review work published by students in one page, and when blogging we can use RSS feeds to pull together material for review to one space, to monitor engagement or to remove/flag for follow up. A message today from a colleague reminded me that this was something to be further investigated and a potential management issue within Honeycomb. Maybe we have missed a tool that will enable this to happen, but nonetheless is something to explore further if I intend to use the tool with students beyond the school day. Currently I have set the environment so that children can only publish and comment within their year group, which hopefully will make this manageable, but also begun to extend previous online experiences by asking that students leave a comment on my pages when they have published, so I and other children can see, share and check out what they have been working on.
The students were certainly fired up by the tool and I hope we can maintain this level of motivation. This is potentially the start of an exciting experience, one that I hope will allow me to develop further the online pedagogies I began using in Think.com, I also hope that the students will begin to use the tool to extend their classroom learning experiences as it is perhaps linked to activities set for home learning within our upcoming elearning project and as we move towards the opening of our new school in the spring term. I look forward to any comments. :o)